Police Op Sheds Light on Ongoing Activities of El Salvador’s Perrones

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Police in El Salvador have dismantled a criminal network run by a member of the Perrones with Barrio 18 gang ties, providing insight into the continued activities of a drug trafficking group whose top leadership has largely been taken down.

On July 30, authorities arrested Jose Enrique Torres, the leader of a remnant of the Perrones who was allegedly involved in a drug trafficking network linked to the Barrio 18 gang, reported El Faro.

Police investigations revealed that Torres had set up a new drug trafficking operation in the eastern region of the country with the aid of Luis Edgardo Franco Arevalo, an alleged drug trafficker belonging to the Barrio 18 gang. Franco reportedly worked with criminals in Panama and Colombia to bring drugs to El Salvador.

The network allegedly operated with the collaboration of judicial officials — who are accused of accepting bribes in exchange for reducing sentences — and law enforcement officers. At least 29 individuals linked to the Perrones network were arrested during the operation, according to La Prensa Grafica. These included the anti-narcotics chief of the city of San Miguel and a municipal government attorney. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The Perrones is a so-called “transportista” group that works for a variety of criminal organizations moving drugs and other contraband north and bringing cash south. The group has links to Mexican and Colombian organizations, and receives cocaine shipments brought up from South America, which it then moves north to Guatemala. The most powerful leader of the group, Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, alias “Chepe Luna,” was murdered last month in Honduras.

Torres is allegedly the leader of one of the remnants of the organization. He had been captured along with another of the group’s leaders, Juan Medrano, alias “Juan Colorado,” in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011, but according to the Attorney General’s Office he used his contacts in the judicial system to secure his freedom.

SEE ALSO: Perrones Profile

The fact that the most recently dismantled Perrones network involved the Barrio 18 gang is unsurprising. Although the two groups have fought for control of smuggling routes, they also collaborate and Los Perrones has been known to hire members of the gang as enforcers.  

Although many of the Perrones principal leaders have been captured, the group is believed to have reestablished a significant presence in El Salvador’s underworld. The most recent arrests are another indication of the group’s resilience, even following Chepe Luna’s death. 

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